honesty.

i’m not sure where to start. not with this post, in life.

more like i don’t know where to re-start.

you probably know that in october 2013, my wife kelli and i moved to chicago and i sort of assumed that’s where i’d be right now. i assumed i’d be there for a long, long time. i didn’t assume we’d own a house in michigan a year later and be looking for paint colors and fixing stuff around the house and shoveling snow off the roof.

i wasn’t expecting to be here.

living in chicago was a dream of mine for over 20 years. i always knew one day i’d live that dream. i didn’t see leaving the city as being part of any plan really.

i guess life can take you by surprise when you aren’t expecting it.

and it’s been hard. real hard. i’ve never really experienced anything quite like what i’ve been experiencing the last few months.

it’s strange to feel homesick. before leaving chicago i’d never experienced this before. i’ve now experienced it every day since we moved. it’s that sick to your stomach, heartache, desperation type of homesick. in one year i became a chicago guy. sometimes people say “oh james is from chicago…” or “you’re from chicago right?”… i don’t object.

i’ve been silent on here the last couple of months because in life, we are conditioned to only speak about positive things. even if it isn’t true. i’ve struggled with this a ton. i’ve learned a lot about positivity and looking on the bright side of things. and i’ve learned a lot about being honest. even if it’s just with myself.

but let’s be real.

if i’m being honest with myself, i can say that in fact, i don’t really like not living in chicago. that’s simple enough and probably a surprise to very few.

i want to go back and live there again, for good this time. i miss the hustle and the noise, but not the traffic. i miss the connections and friends and the community we were a part of. i miss the way kelli and i began something new together there. i miss the bars and restaurants within walking distance and taking our puppy to the dog park. i even miss going to church in chicago at willow chicago, which is no small thing for me. i truly love that community.

the thing i thought would’ve been easy would be taking our life there and the changes we made and the experiences we had and implementing them here in grand rapids. i figured we’d just pick up where we left off and it would be no big deal.

it’s actually been a big deal. it’s been impossible.

it’s not that people here have changed, it’s that we have changed. kelli and i aren’t who we were when we moved to the city. we became better versions of ourselves, together and individually. basically, we grew up. we found our spot, no matter how hard it was. we forced ourselves to be more, to live and experience. we learned to go to different grocery stores besides meijer and family fare. kelli discovered trader joe’s. i fell for mariano’s. i’ve even switched allegiances to the bears. it’s okay lions fans, don’t worry about it.

living in grand rapids is not bad. it’s really not. i just don’t want to compare. we have good things here and there is plenty to look forward to. i am excited to spend the summer near the beach again. the beer in grand rapids is the best. we don’t have to get all geared up to take the puppy out for a walk three times a day, though we probably should. it’s good here.

it’s just that, it’s not everything i want. good is okay, but i want great.

and i feel selfish for wanting everything. i feel wrong for wanting great. but why?

by the time we moved, i was already starting to feel nauseous about it. riding in the u-haul with my father-in-law, we talked about how much i didn’t know if i really wanted to move from chicago. actually i knew i didn’t. i told him that. i told him that it seemed like a great idea and an awesome opportunity for kelli and i but now i didn’t think it was really what i wanted. my boss in chicago was even trying to give me my old job back, without me asking for it, and i wanted to take it back. it was too late. the house was already being prepped for us and our belongings were in a 24 foot truck.

we’ve been gone from chicago just over 4 months now and it’s been the toughest 4 months i’ve experienced in quite a long time. the thing about not being there is that it re-affirms for me that that is where i want to be. i wish that i had that affirmation before i decided it was a good idea to leave. in fact it probably was a good idea, for someone else.

i’ve learned a lot about honesty. i’ve learned it’s tough to convey. i’ve learned a lot about making decisions. i’ve learned that sometimes making decisions doesn’t always make you feel better. life changes don’t always feel good.

i’m trying to put together the pieces of my life here. i’m trying to understand what this all means for kelli and me. we are woven together so much that it’s not just decisions that affect each other, our thoughts do too. i’m trying to understand what the future holds, even though i spend much of my time trying to dictate it. i’ve learned to be honest with myself, even though it’s not just about me.

 growing up is not for the weak.

pandas, books and skinny jeans.

in my ideal world, everything would be beautifully organized… maybe even color coordinated… and stacked from shortest to tallest. nothing would be out of order. life would be so simplistic this way. 

i used to have my bookshelf assembled in what i thought was a perfectly organized system. textbooks went together on the bottom shelf safely as far away from fiction books as i could get them. my fiction books, namely The Great Gatsby, always take me on an imaginative tour far different from anything i could have learned in college.  that is not to say that i never daydreamed while reading Interpreting NAFTA or Human Resources Management, but i think you understand. 

i was just searching for a book on my shelf by one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott. the way she depicts an event in her life is unparalleled, with her use of vocabulary that leaves readers laughing and crying at the same time. anyway, while reaching for Bird by Bird, i noticed that all of my books are mixed together now. Marley and Me is next to Contemporary Cases in U.S. Foreign Policy. it goes on and on like this throughout all of the shelves. i would have had a small freakout moment about this a few years ago, but not now.

i guess what i’ve come to realize in life is, we are not color-coordinated. we aren’t always stacked shortest to tallest and sometimes even the intellectuals who only buy local need to to interact with the wal-mart shoppers of the world.

we like to live in this universe where we are separated by our interests, intellect and our incomes. we stereotype those different from us so that we can justify not having to “deal” with them. we organize our group hangouts with people who are very much the same as us.

i went to two new year’s eve parties this year. and at these parties were vastly different types of people. at one, i think if you did not have at least three inches of beard and a pbr in your hand you had to pay an extra cover charge. oh and it was even more if you had showered that week. no.. i’m just kidding. i love my hipster friends. they don’t smell that bad and they do shower (there i go with the stereotyping). at the other, since i did not grow up in hudsonville, i was an outsider. well there were two other people not from hudsonville so maybe i shouldn’t be complaining. (if you know anything about hudsonville or stereotypes, they both go hand in hand. if you want to live in a conservative suburbia town, hudsonville is for you. if not, you will not enjoy it at all).     

the one thing that stood out to me the most was how different my friends were and how much i love that. i definitely do not agree with all of their opinions or their grooming habits. i can’t pretend that we like the same music or even worship the same God. i know for a fact that none of them love panda bears as much as i do (yea that’s right) and i also know i will never wear red skinny jeans like some of them do (yes they do make red skinny jeans, i was appalled as you are).

but isn’t that what life is about?

instead of searching for similarities in others that gives us a faulty sense of security,we need to find the diversity in people and celebrate the differences that make us so unique.

the world is full of people who are trying only to find others who are just like themselves. instead, i wonder what life would look like if everyone surrounded ourselves with people with different stories, different skin shades, different backgrounds and different voting records. yikes.